I have almost never used presets for processing my images, so when Sleeklens asked me to review their Through the Woods Workflow for Lightroom package, I was initially unsure but thought I'd give it a go to see if really does speed up the post production side of photography. The majority of my photography is landscapes and shot in RAW, so I always have to process my photos. My usual workflow after importing to LR is to adjust the global exposure, colour temperature and curves to bring the image to life and then work on areas of the scene locally mostly using the gradient and radial filters. In saying that I do not usually spend much time on an image and try to keep things as authentic as possible.
Installation although not automatic is relatively straightforward. It just involves unzipping the files and copying them to the relevant Lightroom folders. A pretty thorough guide walks you through each step and I had no trouble following it all for the presets and brushes.
Sleeklens also provide you with some video tutorials that demonstrate how you can their presets and brushes to help you process your images. They again are quite easy to follow. They take you through initially using global presets and then making use of local brushes to add colour and detail. The local adjustments in the videos look good and they make you aware that you can adjust the sliders on the preset brushes to suit your taste.
The Through the Woods collection contains 51 presets and 30 brushes for landscape editing. The presets are presented in different sets, the first set is All in One which is probably the more traditional preset idea of all the adjustments being done in swift click. Then the rest go through the different areas of the Lightroom Develop panel, which are stackable and can be mix and matched;
Base - adjusts the contrast and colour temp,etc to set an overall feel for the image
Exposure - adjustments in highlights and shadows
Colour - reduces a colour cast
Tone/Tint - saturation
Polish - adjust extra contrast, clarity, saturation
Vignette - different strengths of black and white vignettes
The brushes are also arranged by type
Basics - contrast and clarity
Colour - adding tints or colour
Effects - sky and water definition
Haze - reduces colour hazes
Light - dodge and burn plus a couple sunset enhancing brushes
The nice thing about the presets is that they can achieve a look quickly and efficiently, but still can be altered, and are non-destructive to the RAW file.
When you open the develop module you can preview what each preset does first in the navigator panel by hovering the cursor the name of the preset. Bare in mind though that clicking on each preset to alter your image does have some side effects. I noticed that going from the Base High Dyanamic Range to Basic Film, didn't reset the tone curves. So be sure to undo rather than just clicking on different presets as I've done below.
From left to right; Basic Film, High Dynamic Range, then back to Basic Film.
As I played with the presets I quickly realised that you can use the brush presets with the graduated filter and radial filter tools and not just the local adjustment brush.
Here are some before an after edits using some of the presets with roughly what I did to each as I've been using them through the past week.
Global adjustments with Presets
Local Adjustments - Haze- cyan on the sky, desaturated the water, added some contrast and clarity, and warmed up some the the foreground.
Local - brightened shadows on rock, add golden sun
Local - Color Green on the trees, Add warmth, add golden sun, add water detail
Local adjustments - brushed green on the boat, brightened up the foreground foliage. Brushed in some subtle sunset haze into the trees.
Then I fixed the lens corrections, adjusted the colour temp in the lower half of the image using the subtle sunset haze preset with a grad filter. Also increased the exposure slightly and added a bit of dehaze.
The Through the Woods Workflow allows me to initially get to a overall starting point in my processing with the presets, whereupon I can continue to enhance the image with the supplied brushes and my own personal adjustments. Whether or not it was much faster using the global presets to prepare the image I'm not too sure as I would generally have to make slight adjustments usually to tone down the preset to my taste. But they do help you to visualise what can be done very quickly if you are unsure what direction you want to take you photo. On the other hand the brushes were very good for local adjustments and I found them quite useful and will continue to use them in my workflow. In general from start to finish each image took me about 5-10 minutes.
If you haven’t used much image processing software and find opening Lightroom quite daunting with all the panels and adjustment sliders. Furthermore are unsure what each one does then this is definitely something you will find useful. It allows you to have a clear standardised workflow using the presets and will deliver consistent results. There are quite a range of styles in the collection that should appeal to most tastes. For those of you who are more comfortable with Lightroom there is still plenty to offer especially if you after a new set of presets to work with, and you'll find the preset brushes are a really useful tool to use.
If you are interested in purchasing the workflow used in this review here are a couple links
or for any of the other in the Sleeklens range check out